Namibia here we come!
South African Airways are one of the most helpful airlines, so Richard and Dawn have been able to pre-seat and issue boarding cards in advance of arriving at Heathrow for our flight departure. The check-in therefore goes smoothly, and we’re soon through security and boarding our Airbus 300 for the overnight flight to Johannesburg.
On landing at Joburg we transferred terminals to join the onward flight to Windhoek in Namibia. The flight is only an hour and a half, but the SAA staff manage to serve refreshments efficiently, and they are included in the price!
On the final approach to Windhoek Airport, our pilot decides to go around once more, and abandons the landing to circle the airfield before making a text-book arrival. He then confides in us that a large Air Qatar aircraft had landed just prior and hadn’t completely cleared the active airfield in time! We’re all safe and sound, and that’s what matters.
Due to the Qatar arrival, there are fairly long queues at the immigration desks, but we plod along steadily and the Namibian Customs and Immigration staff review our passports and arrival cards one by one. Richard is called to the desk, and the immigration officer looks a bit grumpy. She notices he has numerous Namibian work stamps in his passport and wonders why he doesn’t have a work visa this time. Richard explains he checked with the Namibian High Commission in London and was advised no visa was necessary this time due to the recent change in Namibian immigration regulations. He even produces copies of email correspondence with the London High Commission to confirm. Unfortunately, Mrs Immigration Officer is not happy! After some delay and some huffing and puffing, she announces the rules didn’t change and that Richard needs a visa for escorting the tour. Then she huffs some more, stamps his passport and tells him he can go. Welcome to Namibia! Dawn, on the other hand, gets away scot-free. No questions, smiley staff, no problem.
Fortunately, clients don’t need work visas, so everything goes smoothly and we’re all collecting our luggage from the carousel. Normally, everyone then has to place all luggage through a scanner as you leave the baggage hall, but Richard chats to one of the security staff and negotiates an avoidance technique … we all scoot out via a side door!
In the Arrivals Hall we’re met by our long-standing guide, Uanee, and our coach driver, Ismael. Also waiting to say hello is one of our coach drivers from years back, Bruce. Clients who joined our early Namibia tours will remember Bruce – an excellent driver and extremely tall!
Once all aboard our privately chartered coach, we head into town. The drive from the airport is around 30 minutes, and we manage to see a few Chacma Baboons on route! Wildlife already. In the city centre, Uanee points out some of the more important buildings and we stop and stretch legs at Windhoek’s Lutheran Christ Church, which was built in the early 1900’s.
From here we cross the town to our accommodation, the Windhoek Country Club Resort. Although we’re ahead of time, the hotel staff have kindly prepared all our rooms early, so we’re able to settle in and enjoy a well-earned rest.
Richard, Dawn and Uanee head out to do some provisioning, to include travel sweets, biscuits, water, tissues, wet wipes, toilet rolls, bin liners, and …. a portable step to make it easier to get on and off our coach. Coaches in Namibia are built to cope with the variable road conditions, including the occasional need to cross a river bed (dry or wet!), so the chassis is high and a step-up is useful! We visit quite a few shops to find the best step, and on our 5th attempt we find the perfect solution. We’re so excited we decide to buy two, in case one breaks during the tour! (As it happened, one was enough, so Uanee is now the proud owner of one used, and one brand new plastic step!)
Back at the hotel, we get-together for a pre-dinner drink and tour briefing. From here we head for dinner in the hotel’s Kokerboom Restaurant. A lavish buffet awaits with plenty of tasty South African Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc included too. We may as well start as we plan to continue!